NOAH was born Sunday at the Riverside Presbyterian Church.

The Niagara Organizing Alliance for Hope combines parishes and organizations from the Niagara Falls VOICE and the Lockport VOICE. Organizers nearly filled the LaSalle church and heard Rochester Mayor William A. Johnson Jr. give them encouragement and reason for optimism.

Johnson, the three-term mayor of Rochester, pointed to the success in his community and said, “We have congregations coming together to restore the community, to rebuild the city, to spread God’s grace. You should not be discouraged that more people did not hear your initial call. Show the way. Stay involved. Prove to them that victories can be achieved.”

Lockport’s VOICE wasn’t silenced when it was cut in half. Instead, four Lockport churches joined with Niagara Falls, which has 14 organizations.

“When we first started out, there was great enthusiasm for it, but churches changed pastors who weren’t necessarily willing to get on the bandwagon again. We went from eight churches to four,” Brenda Bauer of Lockport said. “In order to get justice, you need people behind it.”

She recalled the success of closing a drug house.

“There was a whole neighborhood behind us,” she said.

Lockport provides organization, the tax exemptions, by-laws and constitution. Niagara Falls has the numbers.

“I think it’s very exciting,” Brauer said. “We’ll be backed by a number of the people to make the difference.”

Lockport obtained authorization to become a non-for-profit organization so it could get grant money.

“It’s starting today,” said Sister Beth Niederpruem of the Center of Joy at 1117 Michigan Ave. “There were two groups. Lockport had a little head start on us, but they had a change in leadership in some of the parishes. When we heard that, we said, Niagara County can be one voice.”

“VOICE was a voice for those who had no voice. The voice of voiceless,” Niederpruem said. “We needed a faith-based organization where peace and justice issues were organized so we could direct our attention to public officials. That’s the purpose.”

NOAH intends to take grassroots issues to the surface so public figures can address them.

“Start small. Work in a collaborative way, and I guarantee that your numbers will be multiplied,” Johnson said. “I’ve seen this happen in 12 years.”

The Rochester mayor encouraged NOAH to get young people involved and nurture them.

“Help them understand it’s their community, too,” Johnson said.

NOAH is an affiliate of the Gamaliel Foundation, a training institute with 55 affiliates. There is ARISE in Albany, ACTS in Syracuse and VOICE in Buffalo.

The Rev. Jane Dasher, pastor of the Riverside Presbyterian Church, facilitated the inter-denominational organization.

“This is the time that the congregations have come together,” she said. “Our hope is that we’ll create energy and excitement and help make Niagara County a better place to live.”

NOAH brings more churches together to work on issues that are countywide.

“Churches will work together to do what they’re supposed to do, work in the community, help make it grow, work with those who don’t have and help build them up and work with those most of society ignores,” Flavia Skilbred of First English Lutheran of Lockport said.

“I’m hoping they combine together as a whole, that all of us come together as one to make the community a better place,” said Fatima Hedge, missionary at Sanctuary Temple of God in Christ of Lockport. “We’re hoping to reach out to community.”

Andreas Kriefall, an organizer of ARISE in Albany, noted there have been successful projects in Schenectady, Albany, Troy and Saratoga County.

“The whole purpose is to get people to think of long-term solutions, jobs and stronger policies for urban revitalization,” he said.

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